Digestive machine, Photo by Front404

Landscape Within, 2016-2017

Created by Burton Nitta in collaboration with scientists, Landscape Within updates the popular saying ‘you are what you eat’ to propose that ‘you are also where your food is grown, the landscape where you live and what your parents and grandparents were exposed to in their lifetime’.

Landscape Within reveals how our bodies and minds are changed by heavy metal contamination as a result of industrial activity and waste. The work presents new body-parts and machine systems that use plants, bacteria, food, worms and frogs to help us thrive in these future toxic landscapes.

The work is supported by a Wellcome Arts Award and made in collaboration with Dr Louise Horsfall, and the Horsfall Lab at the University of Edinburgh and Dr Susan Hodgson, researcher and lecturer in Environmental Epidemiology and Exposure Assessment at Imperial College London.


Digestive machine

Landscape Within proposes a digestive machine that creates an external additional stage to our gut system. With future upgrades, the machine will move inside the body as an extra stomach organ. These gut enhancements ensure personality stability, counter aggressive behaviour, stimulate IQ development, trigger memories to combat dementia and promote a safe environment for social interaction for communities that have suffered isolation. The machine does this by using engineered bacteria designed to separate food from heavy metal contaminants, resulting in safe consumption and the nano-sized metals that are such a valuable resource. The machine’s ‘tube within a tube’ construction mirrors our own body plan. It enhances the gut, which as an organ is an early evolutionary development made to extract energy from our environment, and which links us to our animal ancestors. This highlights our digestive system as a crossroads between us and the landscape, the past and the future.

Digestive machine, Fluid Matter, Liquid and Life in Motion 2016 - 2017, MU artspace, Eindhoven NL. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer
Curated by Angelique Spaninks (MU) en William Myers (Jury Chairman Bio Art and Design Awards Bio Art and Design Awards)

 

Rice sausages following arsenic extraction process

Edible engineered e-coli containing green fluorescent protein (GFP) within the sausage fluoresce after they finish the arsenic extraction process. Food such as the fluorescing rice sausage provides new dining possibilities and experiential sensations.


 

 

 

The Frogarium (Arsenic - As)

We face a future where a much-loved song has disappeared. No more warm summer nights listening to frogs singing in the rice fields. But the absence of the song is a stark warning. The decreasing number of amphibians correlates with rising levels of heavy metals in the fields. If the frogs are lost forever, how can we capture their song for future generations?

The Frogarium is both a habitat for frogs and a device for retrieving the memory of frog song on a summer evening in the rice fields of Japan. It is designed for the home and to stimulate frogs to sing, preserving the experience for future generations.

Functionally, the device samples water gathered from the rice fields and detects the levels of arsenic (As) present. If the water is safe, it is converted into fog and pumped into the frog chambers. The Japanese tree frogs (Hyla japonica) that live in the upper chambers of the device sing when they feel moisture in the air. If arsenic is detected, the fogger is deactivated and the tree frogs stop singing. In this event a second species of frog called the Waxy Monkey Frog (Phyllomedusa sauvagii), which is kept in another chamber, starts its defence mechanism. To prepare its body, the frog produces an secretion which it smears all over itself. This secretion has been found to contain two proteins that treat cancer and is collected by the owner to prepare for future health events, such as arsenic-induced cancer.


 

 

 

 

The Worm Charmer (Lead - Pb)

A woman breeds ‘super-earthworms’ to help clean the polluted landscape and protect her future grandchildren. She has developed a range of robots to retrieve her earthworms from the ground and to track their consumption of the heavy metals, including arsenic (As), lead (Pb), copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn). They also enable her to collect a specific protein called metallothioneins (MITs), which the earthworms produce to wrap up and seal off the harmful metals. The earthworms act as a biosensor to detect what heavy metals are present in the ground.

The woman’s robots also revive a lost memory that her grandchildren may not experience. In her grandparents’ lifetime, large flocks of birds of diverse species gathered to feed in the fields. The flocks have diminished and some bird species have disappeared due to contamination and past crop-sprays such as DDT. Whilst her robots echo the lost birds, her worms work to de-contaminate the land. The humble earthworm has an evolutionary advantage allowing it to adapt to heavy metal contamination. It does this by producing the MITs protein, which enables the metal to be stored in the worm’s tissues or to pass through without harm. Newly evolved ‘super-worms’ have been found in the UK that are able to adapt to and eat patches of polluted industrial land high in arsenic (As), lead (Pb), zinc (Zn) and copper (Cu).

After the heavy metal has passed through the earthworm, it is less toxic and is converted into a form that makes it available to be absorbed by plants. As a result the worm is a great bio-sensor of the heavy metals in the soil and provides us with ways to capture the nano-metals extracted from the body of the worm. To harvest worms from the soil, the robots make dance movements developed to produce vibrations that mimic rainfall and moles digging underground . In response the worms flee for the surface, where the robots collect them for analysis. In addition to its role in harvesting the worms, the dance that controls the robots is important as it has been discovered that the choreographed movement raises IQ levels and combats the effects of lead (Pb) as a neurotoxin.

 


Worm Charmer performed and choreographed by Natasha Hubert

 

 

 

The New Gut Organ and Cloud Memory Table

The human gut is enhanced with a new organ that hosts engineered bacteria which extract heavy metal contamination from food. The bacteria convert the contamination into valuable nano-metals which can be used in industry, for instance, to make hydrogen fuel cells.

The new organ collects the nano-metals in specifically designed chambers that can be retrieved through surgery or after death. New remembrance rituals have emerged around this new organ and its abilities, where the nano-chambers and their contents collected over a person’s lifetime become symbolic and are used in domestic death memorials mirroring the ‘cloud shelf’ shrines of the Shinto religion. In this future time, the traditional representation of the deceased ancestor on the cloud shelf is replaced with a relic comprised of valuable nano-metals collected during their lifetime.

 

 

 

 

Landscape Within book is now available HERE

 

 

 

Find out more about Landscape Within...


Memory of the rice terrace in the early Anthropocene


Memory of the wheat field in the early Anthropocene

Recent health warnings have told us that rice contains arsenic and fish contains mercury. In 2016 dead whales beached in the US and Scotland exhibited the highest levels of contamination ever observed in these marine mammals. To prepare for a future without escape from the contaminated landscape, an external digestive system machine allows us to adapt to the effects of the Anthropocene Era, resulting from the human age. Functionally, the digestive machine filters out the impact of heavy metals on our health where lead (Pb) can lower IQ capability, mercury (Hg) can have an irreversible effect on foetal development, and arsenic (As) can affect memory and personality change.

In the near future, the digestive machine creates an external additional stage to our gut system. With future upgrades, the machine is destined to move inside the body as an extra stomach organ. These gut enhancements ensure personality stability to counter aggressive behaviour, stimulate IQ development, trigger memories to combat dementia and promote social interaction for communities that have suffered isolation away from unsafe environments. The machine does this by using engineered bacteria designed to separate food from contaminating heavy-metals, resulting in safe consumption and nano-sized metals that are a valuable resource.

The machine’s construction of a tube within a tube, mirrors our own body plan. It enhances the gut, which as an organ is an early evolutionary development to extract energy from our environment and links us to our many animal ancestors; highlighting that our digestive system is a crossroads between us and the landscape, the past and the future.


 

Some organisms both plants and animals, are extremely good at absorbing heavy-metals in their diets, such as hyper accumulating plants (See Instruments of the Afterlife). The Exposure Forecasting Records below are used by experts in the future to predict how your body and mind may change according to heavy-metals that you are exposed to when the landscape enters within your body.



Rice plants are hyperaccumulators of arsenic (As).


Wheat plants are hyperaccmulators of lead (Pb).

Dr. Susan Hodgson, Environmental Epidemiologist on health effect of Contaminating metals

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

Landscape Within

by

Michael Burton & Michiko Nitta

 

In collaboration with


Dr. Louise Horsfall

Dr. Michael Capeness

Dr. Virginia Echavarri-Bravo

Dr. Matthew Edmundson

The Horsfall Lab

Biotechnology and Synthetic Biology,

University of Edinburgh

 

Dr. Susan Hodgson

Environmental Epidemiology and Exposure Assessment

School of Public Health

Imperial College London


 

 

Supported by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award

 

 

and

 


 

 

 

SHOWS


7th - 10th September 2017

Old Truman Brewery


 

 


19th - 22nd September 2017

Westminster Reference Library

 

 

23 - 25 September 2016

V&A London, as part of Digital Design Weekend

 

 

November - December 2016

Tank Gallery, St Saviour's & St Olave's School, London

 

 

December 2016 - February 2017

MU Gallery, Eindhoven

 

 

 

SEE ALSO ...

 

 

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